ARTIST STATEMENT - MICHEL RAE VARISCo
I've always liked my brain occupied. Not with current events or poetry. But with distraction. I like busy work.
I used to make $1 per sheet stationary on looseleaf with the same flower drawn over and over.
I tried to copy doodles that my older brother Vinnie drew but really never could.
In high school I wrote notes using only symbols.
I switched from being right handed to left handed in college.
I love weapons.
In 2011, my husband, Steve Gleason, was diagnosed with ALS. We were both 34.
It's a paralyzing, terminal illness with 2-5 year life expectancy. Yet, with the choice of ventilation (a trache), a person can continue living for years, with 24 hour care.
Our son Rivers was born in 2011.
My husband chose ventilation in 2014.
The months surrounding the 'trache' surgery began a period in my life I call 'the dark ages.'
The grief is relentless. Fear, anxiety, confusion all consumed me. The idea of tomorrow frightened and depressed me.
I felt such sadness for the loss of a life that was supposed to be. I felt mental and physical exhaustion, heartbreak, guilt, shame, resentment.
At one point during this time I came across an old sketch pad with a single drawing on it (called One). I brought it along with some pencils to the hospital during one of the surgeries. There it began.
Drawing provided an escape for the pain. It enabled me to sit in one place for hours and feel contentment and peace for the first time in a long time. And it was exciting that I liked what I was drawing. It felt so good to feel proud of something again.
The momentary relief of the crazy mind was exhilarating.
My drawings started changing into things I didn't understand. Like a different language. I feel like what I couldn't express verbally was coming out of me in these little forms.
A friend told me to check out the Egyptian Exhibit at the Louvre, so I did. When I walked in those rooms I was overcome with excitement, awe, passion. I couldn't believe how similar some of my little forms looked like the hieroglyphics.
I've walked the streets of my ancestors in the beautiful dirty Palermo, Sicily, but now I've come to I think I may have descended from ancient Egypt.
This art has given me something new to love. It has brought back some of the light that I have lost.
I feel lucky that I can share it with my family, friends, and now strangers.
Besides being Rivers' mom, it's the thing I'm most proud of right now.